U.S. students with attitudes reflecting a growth mindset scored higher in reading on the Program for International Student Assessment than those who believe their intelligence is fixed. And the U.S. — which ranked 9th in the world in reading — was also among countries where a larger proportion of students demonstrated a growth mindset.
That’s one lesson from the 2018 PISA results experts from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which runs the assessment program, and the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers it in the U.S., shared Monday during a National Center on Education and the Economy webinar.
With overall results showing mostly flat performance for U.S. students since the assessment program began in 2000, there is also growing interest in what American schools can learn from top-ranking education systems — namely the Chinese provinces that include Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
These education systems “make it attractive for teachers to go to difficult schools,” said Andreas Schleicher, the director for education and skills at OECD. He added when schools have to make a choice between lower class size and having a highly effective educator, “they invest in the quality of teaching.”
As emphasized in many reports comparing the U.S. with other education systems, China and other Asian countries also “give their teachers more time for things other than teaching,” such as research and collaborating with peers, Schleicher said.
A third lesson from the results is more time in school does not equate to better performance. Students in Finland perform higher in reading than their peers in most other countries, but they spend considerably less time in the classroom than students in the U.S. and other countries that scored lower — 37 hours compared to almost 50 in the U.S. and almost 60 in the United Arab Emirates.
Students in the Chinese provinces of Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang also spend more time in school than most other countries, but they expressed lower satisfaction in life, Schleicher noted.
“It’s not just about making the school days longer,” he said, “it’s about changing the nature of the learning experience.”
Another predictor of higher performance in reading, the results show, is whether students perceive their teachers to be enthusiastic about teaching and about the subject of their lessons. There was also a correlation between teacher enthusiasm and better classroom management.
In her comments, Peggy Carr, the associate commissioner of the assessment division for NCES, reiterated concerns that while top-performing U.S. students continue to show improvement, those scoring at the lowest levels are slipping even more — a pattern also reflected in results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
She suggested the findings show different approaches are necessary to help more students succeed.
“I hesitate to say that there is one silver bullet,” she said, “and the data supports that.”